7 On Your Side: How to spot rental scams amid COVID-19 pandemic

JERSEY CITY, New Jersey (WABC) -- Apartment vacancies are high as more and more people left NYC during the pandemic, which can mean a good deal for renters, but also an increase in scams.

The rental listing looked like a good choice. A one-bedroom, 700-square-foot, just renovated home in Jersey City. And the price was right at just $1,000 per month.

Nick Datz said he decided to go for it. But the listing turned out to be fake, leaving Datz out $1,000.

He said he fell into a trap.

The hard-working 24-year-old lost his electrician's job during the pandemic and moved back with his parents in South Jersey.

"It's been a crazy roller coaster, this whole year," Datz said.

But he got his old job back working at Kings and Whole Foods starting this coming Monday, so he jumped on the rental he found on Craigslist.

"He said he was doing the paperwork with an attorney, he made it seem as real as it could be," Datz said.

The scammer even sent him an official looking, but bogus, lease agreement.

Datz sent him the money through CashApp, but when he couldn't get the house key, he got suspicious.

"We went up there, as it turns out, there was another phone number on the house," Datz said.

It was the number of the real landlord who delivered the bad news: The Craigslist ad was bogus and used pictures of the legitimate listing from Trulia.

"He said 'yeah this guy David's been stealing my ads for months - stealing money left and right,'" Datz said.

Fortunately, the listing was taken down Monday.

The landlord even put up a warning on Craigslist which is what Datz is now doing for others.

"It's just the fact that someone took advantage of me and that's the part that killed me," Datz said.

The big takeaway is to always insist on seeing a property in person.

Research the address to see if it's for sale and who the owner or landlord is. And never send money to strangers.

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